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George Jonescu: 1934-2018

'George was a loving gentle giant' - Zoomer Radio, Toronto
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The website of the Adams Funeral Home in Barrie crashed yesterday, shortly after notice of the passing of George Jonescu was posted there.

Coincidence?

Probably not, say friends and fans of the popular radio personality, whose career spanned 65 years from its launch at CJIC-AM in Sault Ste. Marie.

The airwaves, Internet and social media were all buzzing yesterday with memories of Jonescu, who at age 84 was one of the longest-serving Canadian announcers still doing a regularly scheduled broadcast.

"Wow - George’s obit has crashed the Adams Funeral Home website. He was loved by so many," said Tom Aikins, who worked with Jonescu during the 1980s and 90s at Barrie's CHAY-FM (now branded as 93.1 Fresh Radio).

"I can hear his chuckling now!" added another Barrie friend, Vicki Howe. 

Jonescu died suddenly at his Barrie home on Friday, just one day after he recorded his last Big Band Sunday Night broadcast for Zoomer Radio.

The 50,000-watt clear-channel station, based in Toronto and boasting North America's largest broadcast footprint reaching extensive parts of Ontario, Quebec and 28 U.S. states, announced his passing during Sunday's broadcast.

Jonescu was part of the original team that started broadcasting on the CBC's old 740 kHZ AM Toronto frequency on Jan. 8, 2001.

Next Sunday, Nov. 25, Zoomer Radio will honour Jonescu with a special commemorative edition of his weekly broadcast.

Listeners are encouraged to phone the station with their personal memories.

Meanwhile, tributes are pouring in to Zoomer Radio's Facebook page.

"I usually would retire early on Sunday nights, with my books, my 'George' music and that wonderful voice," wrote one fan.

"There must be a Big Band heaven, with George holding court there now. Sunday evenings will never be the same down here," wrote another.

"I first met him up in the Soo when I was a bat boy for the CJIC Micros, the station's softball team," recalls Lloyd Walton, now living in Muskoka. "I remember him as being very kind, to me just a kid, and very funny. CJIC radio and TV personalities were regarded as 'stars' in the community, and George was a star."

"George was one of my mentors when I first entered the world of radio and television, as a wet-behind-the-ears kid back in the early 70s, operating the board in the CJIC FM control room evenings and weekends," said John Chambers. "I learned so much from him about Big Band music and gained a true appreciation for it He always was a quick wit and could ad-lib anything on a moment's notice. A true talent and a gentleman."

Jonescu's favourite musical genres were big band, bluegrass, and gospel.

His Sunday-night shows included deep cuts from his personal collection of vinyl from the golden age of radio.

"He was a broadcaster’s broadcaster, whether it was the classical ‘Masterworks of Music’ on CJIC-FM, the special announcements just before noon on CJIC-AM, live coverage of high school football home and away football games and on supper-hour or late-night CJIC-TV sports, he was always the consummate professional," wrote Art Osborne on his Sky Studio blog about fellow broadcast greats.

"All of us who were on-air admired his ease of delivery, his mellifluous voice, meticulous pronunciation, enunciation, authoritative style and, for many, his masterful ability to ad-lib," Osborne said.

And then, there was that giant walrus moustache.

"Dad had a moustache his whole adult life and I have numerous picture of myself, my brother, and his grandkids... playing with the bloody thing," remembers daughter Karan Jonescu. "It fascinated us how it could wiggle when he talked!"

Another Sault broadcast veteran, Lou Turco, offered these thoughts: "Sorry to hear of the passing of one of my early mentors in radio in Sault Ste. Marie. It was an honour to work with George on CJIC radio/TV. He did it all: sports, music,  news. I was just talking about him on my radio show last Saturday and memories of him hosting Masterworks of Music."

"Late yesterday I learned of the passing of one of my mentors in broadcasting," added long-time TV news anchor Bill Trbovich, now living in Toronto. "He gave of himself so that you would be better at your job. He had a special way of bringing out the best in people. He was my first on-air boss in radio and tv, his career spanned an impressive 65 years."

"George now you get to play Benny Goodman and others on the biggest stage of all. I have no doubt you'll have the angels dancing in the clouds. I will miss you, cue the music!" Trbovich said.

Friends may pay their respects at the Adam Funeral Home, 445 St. Vincent St. in Barrie. on Friday November 23 between 7 and 9 p.m. and again on Saturday Nov. 24 from 10 to 11 a.m.

A funeral service will follow at the chapel at 11 a.m.

Memorial donations will be graciously accepted to the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

For more details, please see www.adamsfuneralhome.ca




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